What’s going on at the South Dock in Southwark?

Proposed South Dock development

Alasdair Flint of historic London chandlers Arthur Beale has written to warn us of what he considers to be a disastrous proposed development that looks to be about to take place at the boatyard at South Dock Marina. Understandably, perhaps, he’s furious…

‘Southwark Council held a meeting on the 29th July which was called ‘Consultation Meeting No1’ – but many people seem to have known nothing about it.

‘I live next to the boatyard, have a paid up mooring in the marina and am commercially involved as a supplier to several people working in the yard, yet I only heard about the meeting weeks after the event through a mate at my running club. He had only heard about it through another friend! I am currently pursuing a freedom of information request to ask exactly how they publicised the meeting.

‘As you can imagine the current information is very vague but the council is proposing to build two tower blocks in the existing boatyard site. One will be 20 storeys high, and the other 15, joined by a wall of flats 8 storeys high. Currently most buildings in the area are low rise three of four floors high.

‘There will be about 230 flats but with only 20 parking spaces all within the current boatyard boundary. Most of the flats will be unaffordable to the local people and no doubt Far Eastern investors will snap them up as a safe haven for their cash. It also looks like some of the development may encroach on the existing Thames Path.

‘As if that isn’t enough they will build a three storey office block in one corner. They are actually claiming they will be improving the shaded scrap of a boatyard that will remain… But it is difficult to imagine the new flat owners putting up with the noise of a needle de-scaler clearing rust from a barge while antifouling dust settles gently on their babies in their prams on their new balconies.

‘The surrounding massively over-scaled buildings will likely amplify the noise of the working boatyard, and make it intolerable for the new residents, who will no doubt complain and eventually get it closed down on health grounds.

‘Commercial traffic on the Thames has increased massively over the last few years and the boatyard is used on a regular basis by both commercial and leisure craft often for urgent repairs. It is also the last remaining working boatyard with a crane along this part of the Thames and should be expanded, not shrunk.

‘The yard could provide many more jobs if it were expanded and the jobs would suit many of the local residents who don’t necessarily have the application or desire to move money around on computer screens in Canary Wharf.

‘The yard itself was saved from a hotel project about ten years ago as it was considered essential to the safe working of the river.

‘I’d say the boatyard is a little oasis along the Thames Path, a great relief to walkers from the monotonous sub standard housing developments that line the Thames from Tower Bridge. Passers-by stop to chat with the boat owners and enjoy seeing a boatyard in action. If the development proceeds, the Thames will be lined with more flats of poor architectural quality while the tiny corner of a token boatyard will be hidden from view in a horrid shady yard too small operate on a serious basis.

‘The Council are going to hold a second consultation meeting on the 7th October and we would like as many people as possible to attend to express their views. For details and to book a place at the meeting, click here.

‘Local boat owners and residents have set up a facebook site to keep people in touch here.

Letters of complaint can be sent directly to Bruce Glockling, Head of Regeneration at bruce.glockling@southwark.gov.uk

‘We need to put up a decent fight to stop this appalling development from proceeding.’

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Marcus Lewis yard news – including a nice Wattie-built rowing boat

Fowey boatbuilder Marcus Lewis has been in touch with news from his boatyard – including a sweet little Wattie-built rowing boat of just 13ft – so sweet that I wonder whether its hull has been measured for offsets for future use. Here’s what he has to say:

‘Apart from the usual laying up and bits and pieces in the autumn, we had in a 13ft rowing boat that is at least 80 years old in for some woodwork jobs. At one point it seems she had a 1.5 Stuart Turner fitted, but later removed.

‘She was built and used by Billy Watty, brother to the original Troy Class boatbuilder, Archie Watty, and is still owned by a relation. We fitted a new thwart, new stringers, a couple of ribs and some new floorboards and a rubbing strake.

‘She’s a lovely shaped little boat. Billy Watty and his brother Brice built small boats further up the river Fowey at Mixtow, with Brice living on board a houseboat. (See the houseboat photo above.)

‘We also had in a 16ft sailing dinghy, built by Dickie George in 1963, at Restronguet, on the Fal. Jenny was well used initially, but then spent quite a few years under a cover in the corner of a field, and is now owned by Ian and Eve Heard.

‘Ian is a maritime historian and illustrator and artist, and son of Terry Heard of Gaffers and Luggers at Mylor.

‘Jenny was in a bit of a state, and after stripping off all the paint inside and out, she was re-timbered from stern to foredeck, had a new transom fitted, her keel was eased back up to the transom to return the original rocker, all the seats and stringers out, cleaned up or replaced as necessary, and we altered the decks and coamings to the sketch we were supplied with and repainted.

‘Just before christmas we started the construction of a new Fowey River dinghy – photos of that will follow at some point.

‘We also have a customer’s 14ft motor boat, Gandy, with 1.5hp Stuart Turner engine for sale.

‘Originally a hire boat on the river, she looks a bit rough after suffering in the autumn gales, but has a fairly sound hull and her engine has worked recently. She has been retimbered with new stringers and gunnels, and has had new foredeck in recent years.

‘Gandy would make a good little project – she just needs painting and some engine tinkering, and is on offer at around £650.’

London to Istanbul dinghy sailor and campaigner seeks a UK boatyard for significant project

Memphis of Dartmouth

Successful London to Istanbul dinghy sailor Giacomo De Stefano (he’s currently in the running for Classic Boat’s Person of the Year Award for his voyage) is setting up a new project – and is looking for a boat yard in the UK that can help him achieve his goals.

He’s planning to use two boats to campaign about the ‘connectedness’ of those who use water resources – agriculture, those who use waterways to dispose of effluents, as a source of drinking water, as a means of making and living, and to collect stories that make his points. Read all about the project here: http://www.bewater.info.

One of the boats to be used for this purpose is Memphis of Dartmouth, an impressive 62ft ketch built in 1928 by James Miller & Sons of St Monans, Fife, which he will be bringing to the UK through the French canals in May this year. When she arrives she will need a fair amount of work by a yard to replace rotted oak frames etc, and there will also be a significant amount to be carried out by his own team.

Giacomo tells me he plans to pay for this by raising money from supporters and through organising partnership and sponsorship deals, which he is optimistic of achieving, but he adds that he can also offer financial guarantees to the yard that takes the job on. The job is also likely to attract publicity, it goes without saying.

If you’re interested, please contact Giacomo through the http://www.bewater.info website.